October 25, 2012
The bracelet was perfect. After searching from Paris to Alsace to Tuscany, I finally found the jewelry that expressed one of the most important summers of my life.
You see I am not a collector, really. My best friend is the one who collects things. As a teen she collected crystals. Later she took a liking to charms. So whenever I would travel, I would bring her a charm from the places I had been: the Parthenon in Greece; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Until one day her bracelet grew so heavy, her arm could no longer support it.
Infused with the need to find something similar, I looked everywhere for a new charm bracelet, but it seems as though the charm makers had gone out of business. No matter where I went, I couldn’t find any.
That is, until I reached our final destination on our week-long tour of Tuscany in a small town called Lucca. There lay two charm bracelets in the window with exactly the charms I had been searching for. The place was so tiny we had to stand still so as not to touch the walls. With an open face and a kind smile, the shop clerk was incredibly friendly. In our broken Italian we asked for a good place to eat. She called around to her friends, but none of the good places were open. She was the most, well, charming person we had met along the way!
Sometimes we find what we are looking for in the most unexpected places. If we search too hard, we may not see what we need to see. With relaxed eyes and a calm spirit, we are better able to perceive what we are meant to see.
In which ways have you been charmed lately? Life can be spell-bounding, if you let it. Open your heart and look at the world through its eyes. You may find that everything you’ve been looking for is right in front of you.
October 23, 2012
Behold the gift of silence. It marks the spaces between our thoughts. It cleans the edges of our minds. It gives us room to breathe.
Martin Heidegger once said: “We make space inside ourselves so being can speak.”
But do we really? Many people struggle with silence, as if it is the absence of something, like air or water or food to eat. But silence is a necessary, yet sorely lacking part of our day. When we enter the silence, we are greeted with our inner core. For many, it is a sad sight to see. Ruins formed by neglect float on the inside. It is painful to observe how poorly fed our true selves have become.
For years you may have had the habit of filling your time with distraction, not wanting to look inside yourself for what will truly make you happy. Then one day your body, the emissary of all thought, finally strikes you down with an illness or malaise. You are forced to notice something is not right. It affects everything about you. Your body knows.
Or perhaps you have forged on as a result of your circumstances. You held on to a belief system so tightly, even as it strapped you into a straightjacket of your own making. You knew something wasn’t right, but you held on for dear life to the only thing you were taught was true.
Only, it turns out, it wasn’t.
Then you receive a wake-up call, as we all do, to what is really going on inside your soul. It cries out for the nourishment it needs so badly. Some of us have pretty strong pain points. We can go on for years without paying attention to the deep-seated pain caused by ignoring our truest reality. Others more attuned to themselves feel it much more quickly and take action right away.
Wherever you are on your journey, know that this is your life. There are no mistakes, just experiences that change your direction. We each have a personal bank account of time. The choice is ours as to how we spend it.
Bathe in the silence today. It will speak louder than any words you can tell yourself.
October 20, 2012
Going Slow means saying no.
But not always.
When we say “no” to certain opportunities, we are saying “yes” to the possibility of others. We are creating space for what is meant to come into our lives. But many of us fear that space, that moment of nothingness, that void in our hearts and souls that we feel compelled to fill with something, anything. Oftentimes we fill it with noise ~ whether it’s the TV, the radio or our own chatter.
Taking time to be quiet will give you the strength to get to “yes”.
The principles of “yes” do not mean you affirm everything everyone wants from you. Nor does it mean you are a yes man to anyone. It means you are standing firm in your power and in your belief in yourself. You are saying “yes” to the life you want to lead.
As I have often said, when we say “no” to someone or something, we are actually saying “yes” to ourselves. The first tenet in the principles of “yes” is to be clear about what is important to you.
- Name five things that have a priority in your life.
- List an action for each one that you can undertake to support that belief.
- If you can’t think of an action, reevaluate your list of priorities. Are you walking your talk or just paying lip service to those things? You may find you have entirely different priorities than you realized. Knowing this will help you get back into alignment with “yes”.
The second tenet of “yes” is to understand that even when we say “yes” to something, it may not turn out as we had planned. Maybe we say “yes” to a project that we think will be fulfilling, only to discover it wasn’t at all what it seemed. You may feel disappointed that things turned out that way, but in saying “yes,” you learned exactly what you needed to learn at that time. Trust that saying “yes” with conviction will lead you down the path you need to take, even if that path seems scary.
The third tenet of “yes” requires that you listen deeply to what you are affirming. Are you saying “yes” to the actual experience or are you saying “yes” to that pretty picture in your mind, painted with wild expectations? This tenet is based on the high involvement/low attachment idea. You are highly engaged in what you are doing without expectation that it will turn out at all.
Pretty Zen, huh?
The final tenet of “yes” is the contagion factor. When you smile out into the world with an aura of “yes”, others will notice and want to know where you got it. Glowing from the inside out, you can share your “yes” story with them.
Sharing your “yes” moments with others will make the world a better place. It will encourage them to do the same for themselves. Can you imagine a world in which we all dance to the rhythm of our personal “yes”? Oh, yeeeeeesssss!
October 19, 2012
It never ceases to amaze me how selective our memories can be. My best friend remembers things from our school days that I can’t even conjure up in a dream. I have no recollection whatsoever of some experiences, while she can’t remember other things I do. I am not certain whether it was our adolescent minds, not yet fully developed, that allowed for such lapses in our memories or if we are simply wiser today and carefully choose what to remember.
We place blinders on to filter information. Our world would otherwise be too overwhelming if we were to take in every nuance in our surroundings. But lifting the blinders, if only a little, would also widen our lens and our view of things.
They say we tend to get more narrow-minded as we get older. Our horizon shrinks, our attention span shortens. But what if we were committed to fully embrace every aspect of a moment as it is laid out in front of us instead of putting it through our translation machine of meaning-making nonsense? What if we were to take on the entirety of the experience, such as eating an ice cream cone on a sunny day, instead of checking our smartphone while we lick away at it? Would we have a different memory of it then?
There aren’t many things we do with a singular focus, except perhaps sleeping. Even then, our subconscious mind is active, feeding us dreams and processing data in its memory bank of time.
Dreams can be helpful for memory recall. I recently had a dream about an actual car accident I had ten years ago. In my dream, the car swerved toward another car. All I could think in my dreaming mind was :”This is it.” I had a similar thought in real life as the car turned 180 degrees one way, then bounced back in the other direction, but luckily there were no cars in sight. In my dream, I was ready to take on death with a singular beat. It was a moment of full acceptance of the experience.
In our dreams we are capable of doing things we can’t do in real life, such as fly. But the symbolic meaning behind the dreams, such as the one I had, can tell us a lot about what we are really thinking.
Pay attention to your dreams for they are the land mine of our memories. If you can’t remember your dreams, go to bed at night telling yourself you will remember at least one aspect of the next dream you have. As you wake up, write it down right away. After a time, you might start to be able to remember more. You might also start to see patterns.
In your waking moments, absorb the entirety of one experience today. It might not help you remember your dreams any better, but it will help you remember the life you lead.
October 17, 2012
Empathy is a lovely quality. It means you can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and feel their journey. It also simply means you can feel.
How many of us can’t even do that anymore?
Nineteenth century poet Henry David Thoreau once wrote that most men lead lives of quiet desperation. We aren’t loud about our unhappiness. We just cover it up with more stuff, thereby numbing our pain…and our joy too.
Slow says you don’t need stuff to be happy. In fact, less is really more. What does give you greater access to happiness is a spectrum of emotions that most boys, in particular, are taught not to feel.
So when Son came home with a schoolyard bully story, I listened carefully to what he was trying to say. At first he proudly told me of his verbal jabs, that he successfully defended himself from the mean kid. But as lunch wore on, Son asked why he can’t suppress his own tears.
“I hate it when I cry.” He was embarrassed to admit he cried in front of his friends.
That’s when I put down the frying pan and looked Son square in the eye.
“I have a secret,” I began in a whisper. “Did you know that men who cry are so much more attractive than men who don’t? In fact, there is nothing better than a man who can feel.”
Son laughed outloud.
I explained that when we only operate from our minds, we are limited, but that the heart is a place that is boundless. It is the source of all creativity and joy. Keeping the pathway open to our hearts gives us unspeakable power and an endlessness no other place can provide. The heart, I told him, is where everything begins and ends.
He seemed satisfied with my answer. For now.
So for you men out there reading this, do cry. It will not only set you free. It might also get you that date you’ve been waiting for all your life.
October 16, 2012
Listening. It is a hard skill to learn.
The irony is we have an innate ability to listen. In fact, it has been necessary for our survival as a species.
Before we learned to speak, we had to listen to our parents.
Before we lived in safe housing, we had to listen for predators.
Before we had radio, television or the Internet, we had to listen to each other.
Before you can learn a foreign language well, you have to listen to a native speaker.
In observing my children, I have noticed that their adolescent brain development has made them unable to absorb certain kinds of sounds, such as the words “Clean up your room.”, “That dish belongs just left of where you put it, namely the dishwasher!”, or “Do you really think muddy shoes belong on your feet going up the stairs?” But teenagers aside, we adults have similar issues about listening to one another.
We only hear a fraction of what is really being said. A lot of it has to do with our filters through which we process information. She said, “X” so she must mean “Y”. We make up all kinds of meanings to interpret what a person has spoken based on our past experience.
But all we have is now. Every moment gives birth to a new possibility, a new world, a new way to enhance your relationships with others. If you let that world in, you wouldn’t believe what happens! All that tangled energy gets released. Blockages, like an ice cube in hot water, dissolve.
In Paulo Coelho’s book Aleph he writes:
“In magic -and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. “Time” doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”
If we stopped for a moment to really be with that person who is talking instead of with our own brain chatter, we might hear the intended meaning more clearly.
We all have our assumptions that we carry into conversations. But imagine what it would feel like to remove those assumptions for just one of them you will have today. Instead of assuming your neighbor will be grouchy, thereby affecting how you will greet her, take away those pretenses with an open mind. Or what if your boss, whom you assume isn’t a morning person, is someone you don’t avoid this morning, but instead approach with the intention to listen to whatever he says. Draw closer and you might find he is dropping clues as to why his face is so mean every morning.
Every one of us leaves a trace of what we are really saying in the room; a deep listener can hear it.
I’m up for the challenge to listen better today. Are you?
October 15, 2012
The Golden Rule says: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The idea isn’t new. It is a standard that rests on the belief that we are all one.
What we do to others really matters. And what we do to ourselves matters too. If we engage in negative self-talk, we aren’t only harming ourselves; we are also cheating the world of our best contribution. You wouldn’t inflict violence on someone close to you so why do you think it is acceptable to do that to yourself, the person to whom you are the closest of all?
As I have mentioned before, we all have a personal echo that resounds much farther than we realize. During a recent conversation with 10-Second Philosophy author Derek Mills, he helped me see that our impact on others may sometimes be invisible, but can be felt nonetheless. We don’t know what kind of effect we have on people and the ripples that occur as a result. Something we do, such as a smile, a kind word or a lengthy exchange, could change the entire chemistry of the room without our being aware of it.
The fun part is becoming aware of your impact and acting in the trust that what you do makes a difference. How? All you need is love ~ love yourself and others. Let it be your interpretor. It will guide you to the right path every time.
If you doubt how interconnected we all are, consider the image of each of us as a wave in the ocean. One wave is small; another is large. Sometimes two waves meld into a larger wave; sometimes they give birth to a third. But every one of the waves is headed to the shore and will eventually land there. We may be going in different directions, but the cycle of life dictates that the push and pull can only occur in concert with one another. Too much pushing leads to a tsunami, a state of destruction and radical change. But even then, the water eventually recedes.
The water that is in the Indian ocean will evaporate into a cloud and possibly move to another body of water as a raindrop. Such is the nature of all things.
Whether you are a raindrop or a wave today, how will you touch the world? I want to kiss the sky like a raindrop and ride the clouds for a while. And you?